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Archive for the ‘Blessings’ Category

 

Some believe that indulging in memories is a waste of time, that past events have no meaning for the present. But nothing could be further from the truth— especially if we acknowledge God’s part in those events.

When we include God in our remembering:

  1. We gain a sense of perspective.

Even difficult times are part of God’s plan. Sometimes, with the gift of hindsight, we catch a glimpse of his purpose later.

For example, how many students have struggled through school, yet in adulthood flourished in careers well matched to their gifts? Most of them are actually thankful for the early challenges, because they learned perseverance and developed strength of character. Those late-bloomers are often compassionate and understanding toward other strugglers, because they remember the difficulties of those formative years.

 

 

  1. We acquire wisdom for today.

“Reflective thinking turns experience into insight.”

–John Maxwell

In my younger days I used to be a champion talker. But somewhere along the way I began to notice the listeners—caring folks who often demonstrated the gentle and quiet spirit Peter spoke of (1 Peter 3:3). They reminded me of my sweet grandmother.

I valued that demeanor and began to turn insight into a new experience of focused listening. (Please understand: practice hasn’t achieved perfection yet. But improvement? Yes.)

 

  1. We build a foundation of stability for today as we remember God’s grace and faithfulness in the past.

But memories easily fade. So some believers keep a book of remembrance or a praise journal, as a way to savor God’s faithfulness.

Just for fun, I randomly opened my loose leaf praise journal in search of an entry to share with you. Here’s what I wrote, December 23, 2003, about our older son, who was in college at the time:

 

 

(“Eric got a new job yesterday and it starts today! The owner of the bike shop has not paid Eric for ten days, but a friend offered him a job in their family’s fireplace shop at the same salary.”)

Entry after entry highlight God’s provision, protection, and guidance through the years. And each memory contributes to my foundation of stability.

 

  1. We foster gratitude in our hearts.

As you can see, the entry recorded above ends with: “Thank you, Lord, for answering our prayers and providing for Eric.”  Joy just naturally overflowed into appreciation.

On the opposing page I wrote, “I am overwhelmed, Lord, by this continuing string of blessings. You are SO good to us, always demonstrating your faithfulness and grace. May your praise continually be on my lips!”

Research has now proven a number of benefits of gratitude.*  But surely one of the best: it nurtures a contented soul.

 

 

  1. We can turn remembering into a beautiful act of worship. 

That’s exactly what scripture invites us to do: 

“Rejoice in all the good which the Lord your God has given to you and your house” (Deuteronomy 26:11).

Praise the name of the Lord your God, who has done wondrously with you” (Joel 2:26b).

“You make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands” (Psalm 92:4).

 

 

Such glorious cause and effect! Remembering God’s wonderful deeds of the past turns our hearts to worship, which causes a powerful, positive impact on the present.

 

  1. We can tell our stories of God’s miracles and mercies, to encourage the faith of others and refresh our own.

Scripture invites us to do that too: 

“I will tell of the kindness of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all he has done for us” (Isaiah 63:7).

.

 

So let’s begin here! Please share in the comment section below about a kindness, miracle, or mercy of God from your memory. And together we can praise the name of the Lord who has worked wonders for us!

 

* Another post details some of those benefits, “Happiness.”

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.nellis.af.mil; Nancy Ruegg (3); http://www.heartlight.org.

 

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See if this biblical statement surprises you as it did me:

 

 

“The Lord protects the simplehearted.”  Isn’t that puzzling? I thought scripture warned us against Simple Simon behaviors.

For example, the book of Proverbs speaks repeatedly about the folly of naiveté, foolishness, and recklessness:

  • “A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps” (14:15).
  • “The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge” (14:18).
  • “A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it” (22:3).

 

 

God does not generally protect those given to foolishness. More often he allows foolish behaviors to point out our need of him. Clearly simple of heart must mean something else.

I turned to other translations, to see what terms they may have used, and another surprise awaited me. Seven different translations chose seven different descriptors.

The simplehearted are:

  • Unwary (New International Version, 2011)
  • Helpless (Good News Translation)
  • Innocent (New English Translation)
  • Inexperienced (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
  • Ordinary (Contemporary English Version)
  • Defenseless (GOD’S WORD® Translation)
  • Those of childlike faith (New Living Translation)

 

 

M-m-m. Those are not particularly desirable qualities in our culture. We tend to value shrewdness and self-reliance, sophistication and exceptionality, strength and power.

But simplehearted is a positive trait in another culture–the kingdom of God–where those with childlike faith are commended (Matthew 19:14).

Further consideration reveals why the simplehearted are in need of protection. At any given time, we are:

  • Unwary of potential danger caused by our enemy, Satan
  • Caught in troubling situations with no means of escape
  • Blameless yet accused (Consider false guilt part of this category)
  • Amateurs in applying God’s Word to the hard choices of life
  • Trapped on the treadmill of humdrum routine
  • Vulnerable to burnout, discouragement, jealousy, anger—you name it

 

 

Did you see yourself among those descriptors? I sure do.

But praise God, my frailties do not repulse him. On the contrary, because of his loving and caring nature, he deeply desires to protect us simplehearted folks.

Now there’s another word that can trip us up: protect. We’d like God to keep us completely safe from trouble, pain, and harm. And sometimes he does—even in miraculous ways.

Other times, God protects us through the trouble (2).

Satan, however, wants us to think that God’s promises have failed us if we have to endure hardship.

But one look at the godly people around us who suffer and it becomes clear: God does not create heaven on earth for the subjects of his kingdom.

God’s idea of protection is to keep us out of the hands of the enemy, Satan (2 Thessalonians 3:3)…

 

 

…and to guard our hearts and minds with his peace in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7)—until he takes us home. Thats when all heartache and pain will cease.

Meantime, “There isn’t a single moment when you’re not tucked next to the heart of God” (3).

Such sweet comfort for those of us with simple hearts, reaching out with childlike faith for our Father’s perfect protection.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

 

I praise you, O God, that you protect the simplehearted. Your eye is upon us, your arm is around us, your ear is open to our prayers. Your grace is sufficient, your promises unchangeable. My simple heart is filled with grateful praise!

 

(2 Chronicles 16:9; Isaiah 40:11; Psalm 34:15; 2 Corinthians 12:9;

Psalm 145:13b, and a John Newton quote)

 

Notes:

(1) Psalm 116:6a (NIV, 1984, emphasis added)

(2) See Perfect Trouble for more reflection on this topic.

(3) Tony Evans and Chrystal Evans Hurst, Kingdom Woman Devotional

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.goodfreephotos.

 

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Late summer abounds with color. Produce bins overflow with jewel-toned peppers, butter yellow corn, curly green lettuce, and deep purple eggplant.

 

 

Flowerpots and planters proffer cascades of royal plum petunias, lemon drop begonias, hot coral geraniums, and more.

 

 

Even our clothing this time of year can dazzle the eyes with such hues as sunflower yellow, Caribbean blue, and Calypso orange.

 

 

We are surrounded by color in the physical realm.

In the spiritual realm, we are also surrounded—by the shades of God’s grace. Every moment, his love for us inclines him to bestow a plethora of benefits, even though we’re completely undeserving.

Those shades of grace include the following:

 

Red for Jesus’ Blood

 

 

In the alchemy of God’s grace, our sin-blackened hearts become as white as snow (1).

And from the day we each invite Jesus to perform that transformation, we become the sons and daughters of the Ruler of the universe, with all the privileges of his kingdom, including his comfort, security, and peace.

 

Orange for God’s Countless Blessings

Every day begins with the sun’s fiery appearance and ends with its glowing departure. All day long everything on earth benefits from its light.

 

 

Similarly, all day long we benefit from God’s countless blessings—especially if we’re attentive and grateful.

 

“Let the thankful heart sweep through the day and,

as the magnet finds the iron,

so it will find, in every hour,

some heavenly blessings.”

–Henry Ward Beecher

 

On Monday I worked in our foliage/flower beds and tried to be a magnet, finding heavenly blessings while on my hands and knees in the dirt.

I collected the following gifts:

  • cooler temps and less humidity
  • only a few weeds to dig up
  • a cute little worm doing aerobic wiggles
  • refreshing sips of ice water
  • the undulating, soft strum of cicadas (Is there a more quintessential sound of summer?)
  • a few birds in a serenading mood

 

 

Even working in the dirt offers transcendent moments of awe.

 

Gold for God’s Word

 

 

What other book offers such a treasure trove of instruction and inspiration, encouragement and comfort, strength and hope—as well as a place to become acquainted with God himself?

 

“The Holy Scriptures are our letters from home.”

–Saint Augustine

 

Green for Growth

 

 “God loves us just the way we are,

but he refuses to leave us that way.

He wants us to be just like Jesus.”

–Max Lucado (2)

 

 

Growth happens slowly, however. We sometimes wonder if progress is happening at all. Perhaps the four stages of spiritual growth described long ago by Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) will provide a useful measuring tool:

  1. Loving ourselves for our own sakes
  2. Loving God for our own sake, for what God does for us
  3. Loving God for God’s sake, unselfishly, and
  4. Loving ourselves for God’s sake, in awareness of God’s great love for us

Phillip Yancey added a fifth state: Loving others for God’s sake (3).

 

 

Wherever we find ourselves on the continuum, our God who started this great work in us will “keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears” (4).

(And just in that one verse alone, we have an example of the inspiration, encouragement, comfort, and hope we find in scripture!)

 

Blue for God’s Character and Heaven

 

 

The color blue symbolizes loyalty, wisdom, intelligence, truth, and heaven (5).

Interesting that the first four qualities describe God. Out of his grace, he is: loyal to us, wise in his dealings with us, intelligent in his governance over the universe, and the source of absolute truth for us.

As for heaven:

 

“If heaven were a beautiful place only,

it would not be enough.

But heaven is also a blessed place—

a place that receives the fullness of God’s favor.”

Anne Graham Lotz (6)

 

Think about that: the fullness of all God is, all the glorious shades of God’s grace, exist in heaven and will one day surround us there—forever.

 

Notes:

(1) Psalm 51:7; Hebrews 10:22

(2) Just Like Jesus, Thomas Nelson, 2012.

(3) Reaching for the Invisible God, Zondervan, 2001.

(4) Philippians 1:6 MSG, emphasis added

(5) http://www.color-wheel-pro.com/color-meaninig.html

(6) The Vision of His Glory, Word Publishing, 1996.

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com (2); http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.flickr.com (Kenneth Konica); http://www.flickr.com (Jim Killock); http://www.wikimedia.com’ http://www.flickr.com (Jose Luis Pelaez);  http://www.pixabay.com.)

 

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That’s what we can expect when we choose to live God’s way: supreme blessedness.  Jesus made that clear in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  You’ll remember he began with eight statements of blessing called beatitudes.

One example:

 

 

In other words, profound joy comes to those who humbly depend on God, as they avail themselves of his heavenly kingdom-benefits.

Of course, there are many other attitudes and actions he rewards, in addition to those eight Jesus named.

Below are listed several means to blessedness that have come to my attention over the years. Perhaps you’ve experienced them too:

 

Blessed are the risk-takers, for they shall sail on winds of faith.

 

 

“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for” (Grace Murray Hopper).

 

Think of Abraham.

 

“By faith Abraham…obeyed and went,

even though he did not know where he was going.”

–Hebrews 11:8

 

We too have to be willing to travel blind toward undisclosed destinations. Otherwise we’ll never experience the thrill of God’s power taking us to ports we’ve never dreamed of.

The way ahead is always hidden, sometimes causing uncertainty.  But!  We know the One who’s leading. Uncertainty does not have to cancel out confidence.

 

Blessed are those who seek God’s desires, for they shall know delight and fulfillment.

Somehow we think the pursuit of our own desires will bring satisfaction.  But haven’t we seen enough of the rich and powerful crash and burn in despair?  “Everything [is] meaningless; a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).

How much better off we are to pray along with the psalmist:

 

 

It is in the practice of obedience we learn its precious worth.

 

Blessed are the encouragers for they shall be encouraged.

Such an interesting phenomenon: make the effort to lift someone else’s spirit, and you find your own spirit uplifted.  Actually, wise King Solomon recorded this be-attitude long ago:

 

 

Guaranteed double pleasure.  How’s that for supreme blessing?

 

Blessed are the sifters of thoughts, for they enjoy golden contemplations.

If we’re not careful, our minds can easily gravitate toward dross thoughts–the negative, unwholesome, and ugly.  It takes effort to seek out the gold: the honorable, lovely, and commendable. But true contentment awaits those who do.

 

 

Blessed are the focused for they shall not spread themselves too thin.

Our bodies were made for a rhythm of rest—7 to 8 hours out of every 24. Short-changing sleep actually lowers our productivity and endangers our health (1).

That’s why:

 

 

We just can’t do it all, much as we’d like to. Priorities and parameters must be set. That means, saying no to some good things may be the best choice.  We must give others permission to do the same also.

 

Blessed are those who pay attention to the ordinary, for they discover the extraordinary.

For example:

  • Icicle sentries in winter, clinging to the seat of a deck chair

 

 

  • Wildflowers in springtime, cupping tiny pink and yellow stars

 

 

  • Sunbeams on a summer morning, filtering into the glen

 

 

  • God’s artistry (and penchant for color!) splashed on autumn leaves

 

 

Each eye-catching display is a precious love-gift from our Heavenly Father. And around us are countless more, waiting to be discovered, savored, and praised.

 

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;

his greatness no one can fathom.”

–Psalm 145:3

 

And there you have six more beatitudes–examples of God’s supreme blessedness lavished upon us–when we choose to live by his wise and loving ways.

 

 

What be-attitude would you add?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Note:

1) https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/tired-at-work#1 and https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20170209/skimp-on-sleep-and-you-just-may-wind-up-sick#1

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.libreshot.com; Nancy Ruegg (3); http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.canva.com.)

 

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(A new parable)

 

In the high-ceilinged reception hall of the palatial residence of Elohim (1) stands an uncertain woman, Encie (2). Her new friend Jesus has just ushered her in, but what might happen next, Encie has no idea.

A tall, winged being of shimmering light glides into the hall through a massive door on the left. “Welcome, Encie! Welcome to your first day in the eternal kingdom of God! I am Avodah (3), honored assistant to Elohim. It is my great pleasure to introduce you to kingdom living.  But first, please direct your attention upward.”

With a graceful sweep of his arm, the angel (for what else could he be?) draws attention to a great choir of angels hovering high above.  They begin to sing a joyful, undulant melody accompanied by fast-rolling harmonies. Such a beautiful weaving of sound Encie has never heard, but all too soon the music crescendos in a heart-stopping finish.

 

 

And then silence.

The angel whispers, “That was for you, Encie.”

She turns, wide-eyed, to stare at Avodah.  “Me?  I don’t understand.”

“We can’t help getting excited every time another person invites Jesus into his or her life!” he explains.  “And now, Encie, we have gifts for you!”

He grandly gestures once more, this time toward a long line of angels entering the hall from a door on the left. Each bears a different gift.

The first angel approaches with a thick packet balanced on both hands.

“These are your adoption papers, Encie. They indicate you are now a full heir to your Heavenly Father’s estate, which is the whole universe. As an adoptee, you’ll enjoy other privileges also. For example, your Friend and Brother, Jesus, will be with you wherever you go, to provide strength and comfort.”

 

 

With trembling hands, Encie takes the adoption papers from the angel, barely able to whisper “thank you.” Can it be?  She is now a child of the King of all!

Angel #1 quietly slips away toward another doorway to the right and a second angel moves forward with a thick book.

“Ah!” says Avodah. “This gift will become more precious to you than thousands of pieces of silver and gold. It is Elohim’s Supreme Instruction Manual, filled with wisdom, guidance, and encouragement.”

 

 

Angel #2 places the manual on top of the adoption papers in Encie’s arms and exits in the same manner as Angel #1.

Angel #3 approaches carrying an identification badge on a lavaliere.

“Allow me!” cries Avodah. Taking the badge, he drapes it over Encie’s head and positions it gently around her neck. “You now have direct access into the throne room of Elohim Himself. You may ask Him anything; you may tell Him anything.”

 

 

“Oh, I couldn’t do that.” Encie blurts. “Nothing I have to say could possibly be important enough for Him.”

Avodah lays a lightbeam finger on God’s Word in her arms. “You’ll read here that He actually wants you to bring everything to Him. You can drop off all your worries and concerns in His throne room. In their place He’ll offer you another precious gift: His peace of mind that no human can explain. You will never again have to experience stress or sleepless nights—unless you choose to.”

Avodah pauses for a moment, allowing Encie to absorb the glorious possibility of exchanging life’s pressures for Elohim’s perfect peace.

 

 

And then Angel #4 glides forward. In his cupped hands he holds what appears to be a sparkler, but there is no stem. The ball of shooting sparks hovers over his hands, apparently causing no harm or hurt.

“Oh, Encie.” says Avodah, with reverence in his voice. “This is the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is because He’s already been working in your life that you are even here today. But now He will bring wisdom, understanding, and strong counsel to your mind. He will enable you to serve Elohim in far greater ways than you ever could on your own. And that’s just the beginning! You’ll learn more about the Spirit in God’s Word there.” And Avodah lightly taps Encie’s new instruction manual.

 

 

Suddenly the sparkler-orb arises out of the angel’s hands and moves toward Encie. She experiences no fear, and there is no pain as the light passes through her being into her soul. Upon entrance, a warm, euphoric joy spreads through Encie until she is filled with the presence of Spirit Light.

Yet there is more.

Avodah asks, “Encie, do you see all these other angels waiting in line? They, too, carry gifts for you including:

 

 

  • A padlock for your heart, because God’s love is locked into you in unending commitment
  • A can of sunshine yellow joy-paint, to splash on all life’s circumstances
  • A spool of never-ending blessings
  • An anchor of hope to hold you firm and secure
  • A level for smoothing the paths of life
  • And a packet of fruit seeds the Holy Spirit will help you grow into mature, delicious character traits over time

 

 

“Oh—and don’t worry. We’ll make sure all of these gifts make it home with you.”

“I-I don’t know what to say, “ Encie stammers and lowers her head. “The words ‘thank you’ seem…worthless.”

Avodah lifts her chin with his glowing hand and speaks with tenderness in his voice.

“The best way to show your gratitude, Encie, would be to demonstrate heartfelt reverence for all Elohim has done for you. Take Him at his Word, follow His all-wise ways, and trust Him. He loves you so very much, Encie.”

 

 

Encie nods.

“Why don’t you go into the throne room right now?” asks Avodah, indicating a golden door in the center of the back wall. Tell Elohim your thoughts. Remember, He’s not listening for impressive words; it’ll be your heart He hears.”

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, Lord Almighty! Everything within me cries, “Thank you!” I try to sing my gratitude; I kneel in worship in an effort to express my gratitude. Thank you for Your love and faithfulness expressed in countless ways. You are the One and only, great and glorious Elohim, my Heavenly Father! 

(Psalm 138:1-5)

 

Notes:

(1) Elohim: infinite, all-powerful God

(2) Encie: New Christian (N.C.)

(3) Avodah: a Hebrew word meaning work, worship, and service

 

Scriptural basis for elements of this parable: Luke 15:10, Romans 8:14-17, 29; Matthew 28:20; Philippians 4:13; Matthew 11:28; Psalm 119:72; Romans 5:1-2; Philippians 4:6-7; Acts 2:38; Ephesians 3:16, 20; Acts 2:3-4; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Romans 8:38-39; Philippians 4:4-8, 11-13; Psalm 40:5; Hebrews 6:19; Proverbs 4:26; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Peter 3:12; Psalm 147:11; Hebrews 11:6; Titus 2:11-14.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com by Tyler Neyens; http://www.canva.com.

 

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(A personal psalm)

 

When thoughts are allowed free rein…

 

 

…I worry about the future, forgetting who’s in charge–You!–The all-powerful, all-wise God of the universe, Master Controller of all things (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). The truth is, if I’m worrying, I’m not trusting.

 

…I become overwhelmed by the tasks ahead, overlooking your reliability in all situations (Philippians 4:13). Key word: in. You provide strength in the midst of the journey, not before it has begun.

 

 

…I question the reason for difficult circumstances, failing to remember all the benefits you bring out of trials, including maturity, strong faith, and deficiency in nothing (James 1:2-4).

 

…I feel inadequate to handle new responsibilities, forgetting you will not leave me to muddle through on my own. I can confidently depend on your help and put my hope in your promises (Psalm 46:1; Numbers 23:19).

 

 

…I allow disbelief to fester in my mind, neglecting to “dismantle doubts with declarations” (1)—declarations of stabilizing truth from your Word (Psalm 119:93, 160).

 

…I become discouraged in prayer, not considering that You grant what we would have asked for, if we knew everything you know (2) (Isaiah 55:9).

 

 

…I feel like a failure, losing sight of how you can turn weakness into strength and redeem any situation (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). How miraculous that even “worthless dross [you] transform into pure gold”(3).

 

…I make poor choices, ignoring the wisdom of your ways and what it cost you to pay for my sin (Psalm 119:137-138; Galatians 2:20).

 

 

…I experience despair, giving no thought to your over-all objective:  to accomplish what is good and right–always. That good purpose may not be fulfilled today or to my preference, but it is certain nonetheless (Psalm 42:5 and 145:17; Jeremiah 29:11).

 

…I am discontented,  forgetting to clarify my perspective with praise–for who you are and what you’ve already done (Psalm 31:19; Psalm 145).

 

 

…I become jealous of others, neglecting to celebrate your uniquely designed plans and specially chosen blessings for me (Ephesians 2:10).

 

…I feel weak, overlooking “the inner dynamic of grateful joy that empowers the greatest efforts” (4) (Colossians 3:15-17; Nehemiah 8:10).

 

For every troublesome emotion, every problem, every insufficiency that plays in my mind:  you, O God, are El Shaddai–the All-Sufficient One.

 

 

You are the answer for everything I face.

 

I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart;

I will tell of all your wonders. 

I will be glad and rejoice in you;

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. 

–Psalm 9:1-2  NIV

 

Notes:

(1)  Jody Collins, author of Living the Season Well and blogger at       https://jodyleecollins.com/blog/

(2)  Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking Press, 2015, p. 52.

(3)  Charles Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, December 8.

(4)  Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus, Viking Press, 2015, p. 31.

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com, by Giogio Montersino; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org (2); http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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(Cincinnati Music Hall)

 

Recently my daughter-in-love and granddaughter invited me to accompany them to “Sing Hallelujah, Cincinnati!”–an event at our city music hall.

Vocal groups and instrumentalists from the metropolitan area participated, presenting music around the theme, “Hallelujah.” The experience turned out to be much more than I expected.

First, a brass band came marching in from the back, playing a jazz rendition of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”–New Orleans style. By the time they exited out a side door at the front, we weren’t just applauding, we were smiling.

The genial atmosphere created by Cincy Brass was further enhanced by the relaxed and friendly master of ceremonies, Mr. Dilworth. In his opening remarks, he explained the meaning of hallelujah: to express joy and to praise God. And that’s exactly what we did for the next hour or so.

 

 

First, Mr. Dilworth taught the audience a hallelujah song, one segment at a time. Then he challenged us with a descant part. The final effort combining tune and harmony turned out quite pleasing. We applauded again, for Mr. Dilworth’s talented direction and our surprisingly good performance. Now we were smiling even more broadly.

Perhaps Mr. Dilworth knows the research: “Singing corporately produces a chemical change in our bodies that contributes to a sense of bonding” (1).

For the rest of the evening, one choir and ensemble after another wowed us with a broad range of music, including classical, traditional, ethnic (Ukrainian and African), gospel, spiritual, bluegrass, and jazz.

 

 

What made the occasion distinctive, however, was the racial mix among performers and audience members. And as the evening unfolded, the music became a catalyst for unity among us—in spite of various ethnic groups and a wide variety of musical genre.

Even though all of the pieces sung and played could not possibly be everyone’s favored styles, the entire audience clapped (Some even gave a shout now and then!) in enthusiastic appreciation for all participants.

We were bonded together in a unity of gratitude.

Also among us flourished the unity of contentment. For one hour we sat companionably immersed in the mutual pleasure of music.  Any rough edges of tension that might cause strain in other circumstances were smoothed over on this occasion–by the hallelujahs of praise.

Finally, there was the unity of joy—evident in the continuous smiles and occasional laughter.

And where there is joy there is the presence of God (Psalm 16:11).

 

 

It’s probable not all participants and attendees were Christians. Most of the groups who performed would be categorized as secular.

But for this one evening, whether folks knew it or not, we drew close to God through grateful, contented, and joyful praise.   And as a glorious byproduct, found ourselves drawn closer to one another.

 

 

Note:

(1) Bob Kauflin (member of GLAD vocal band for thirty years), https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/words-of-wonder-what-happens-when-we-sing

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.jba.af.mil (Jordyn Fetter); http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pixabay.com.

 

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